New Destinations, Sports and Hobbies

From Mississauga to the Yukon by Motorcycle – A 7000 km Journey

January 1, 2017
Predrag Stojković, Joca Crnjanski; Interview by Marija Matić
San Issue 7 - Winter 2017

On June 1st, 2016, Predrag Stojković and Joca (Joe) Crnjanski set out on a 7000 km journey by motorcycle. This journey lasted 23 days, starting at the southeastern part of Canada, Mississauga in Ontario, and stretching all the way to the northwestern regions, the town of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. They went through Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. They covered 500 km on average per day, but there were also days where they were not on the road.

Joca and Predrag, who came to Canada in 1995, are members of the “Tesla” motorcycle club. The club was founded on February 4th, 2013, and has about 60 members. The club organizes journeys in Pennsylvania, parts of Ontario, Quebec, and other regions.

How did you get the idea to go on this journey?

Predrag: I went rafting in Alaska with a group of friends: Sale, Gusev, Pante, Harry, Ted, Ernie, and Mike. I decided to do the whole trip to the Yukon by motorcycle and I put out an ad through the motorcycle club asking for someone to join me.

Joca: I accepted the challenge and decided to go on this journey. We started preparing a month before our departure. Four others followed us in two cars with rafting equipment.

What do you think of Canada today and what parts do you like the most?

Joca: I’ve come to like Canada more and more. I was excited by its expansiveness, and the fact that such a small number of people, about 32 million, are able to organize such a vast country. As soon as you pass Edmonton, it’s a completely different place. A fantasy. Nature which you normally only see on television. You can relax and forget about everything. It’s a wonder that such a small amount of people lives and works in such a large space.

Predrag: My goal was to ride along the northernmost part of Canada, the Dempster Highway which is 760 km long from Dawson City to the Yukon. The road has no asphalt and is covered in gravel for its entire length. It’s an old trail along which dog sleds used to travel on. It got its name from an RCMP officer who led a rescue mission there. It is the place where you enter the Arctic circle at about 66 degrees. During the summer, a day lasts 24 hours.

You have lots of entertaining pictures, such as the one with all the licence plates. What was going on there?

Predrag: That is a place called Sign Post, in Watson Lake between the Yukon Territories and British Columbia the Alaska Highway, which was built over two and a half years during World War II. An American solider was the first to put his licence plate there, and now there are entire streets of them. There are about 100 thousand.

Joca: We put our club flag there.

Where there any close encounters with wild animals?

Predrag: There were close encounters with black bears and grizzlies, who are native to the north. We weren’t afraid. Once a black bear wandered into our camp. We threw rocks at him, and decided we’d see who would kick who out first – he us, or we him.

While travelling through the wilderness, where did you sleep? What did you eat? Where did you bathe? How did you wash your clothes?

Joca: We slept in tents. There are places along the way where you can use a campsite if you leave $20 in a box. Our campsites were mostly without water or electricity. We kept an eye on the weather forecasts as we went along, and when there was a chance of clouds and storms we stayed in motels. We washed our clothes at laundromats. And we had our own cook.

Predrag: We showered every 3-4 days. A few times we bathed in Arctic rivers. We smelt like real men.

Did you meet any other people who were long-journey enthusiasts?

Predrag: On the road near Dawson, where the day lasts 24 hours, we met an old German man from Ontario who came there on his 80th birthday to specifically get pictures of himself reading the paper by the light of the “midnight sun.”

We also met a woman who set out by motorcycle from the Yukon to Toronto. She had four bags, a tire pump, and extra tires.

Joca: We also met two Argentinians who were travelling by motorcycle from the southernmost point of Argentina, Ushuaia, to the northernmost point of the Arctic, Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, a journey that is 26, 000 km long. In the middle of the Dempster Highway, in the middle of nowhere, we encountered a 30-room motel and car repair shop owned by a German woman who settled there 30 years ago.

Where there any accidents along the way? What would your advice be for safe driving?

Predrag: There was not a single risky situation along the way. I didn’t have any problems, apart from when my motorcycle fell in front of a garage once – but it is true that there is a saying that when you buy a motorcycle, you sign a pact with the devil. Speed is important, as is keeping a good distance from other vehicles. In the test book it says you should be 2 seconds away, I recommend 4-5 seconds. I don’t ride by night. I stay 50 m away from trucks and larger cars so that I don’t hit any animals that are on the road. It’s difficult to stop in time if you’re any closer. When there’s a hill, you can’t see what’s on the other side, on the downward slope. One time, when I went over a hill, I saw a bear in the distance crossing the road with its two little ones. They calmly crossed as I watched them. But if I was going 100 km/h I wouldn’t have been able to stop my motorcycle.

Joca: I stick to what it says in the book which is tested on the M1 license test. Maybe its because I started riding a motorcycle later in life, but I am more careful and more experiences. When you’re young you’re full of adrenaline.

What motorcycles and gear would you recommend for travelling, and what budget should be expected?

Joca: My motorcycle is a Kawasaki KLR650. That’s the smallest engine I would go with for a journey like this one. This motorcycle is for riding on-road and off-road, on gravel. I wouldn’t recommend a sport motorcycle, they are uncomfortable for longer rides, you have to be bend over and your back would suffer. They are good for an hour or two at a time. I recommend upright seating due to the length of the journey and for your back. We had motorcycle outfits: jackets and pants with padding and hard, protective rubber. You can’t go anywhere without that, and they cost about $800. And the green rain outfits are about $150.

Predrag: I have a BMW R1200R.

How long have you been riding motorcycles, and how did you get started?

Joca: Three years. I decided to buy a motorcycle after the Gitarijada in Zaječar. It was fascinating to see about 500 motorcycles there in one place, there was even a group of Čarapans from Šabac. We’re nothing compared to the way they were dressed and prepared. When I came back home, I immediately bought a motorcycle. I went to Humber College which has a two-day course over the weekends and immediately received my M1 license.

Predrag: Seven-eight years. Motorcycles always interested me. When you’re young you have neither time nor money. One time when I was on a business trip, I was going through a magazine on the plane and saw a Yamaha motorcycle which I immediately liked. I circled the ad and bought it the next day. 20 years ago, I was riding two laps around my apartment complex, and now look at me! I was like a cat toying with a mouse – that is, my motorcycle.

What is it that you find attractive about riding motorcycles?

Predrag: A whole new world opens itself up to you. Riding through the forests in Ontario is wonderful: the openness, the variety, the beautiful nature, and the surroundings. Just past Milton there is a café called Belfontain where motorcyclists meet on Sunday mornings for coffee. It takes you back 20 years.

Joca: When you get on a motorcycle you don’t know where it will take you, there are no destinations but the road itself. It is a great feeling seeing so many different things, it clears your head. There’s friendship, music… It breaks the monotony of work-home.

Would you do this trip again?

Predrag & Joca: We certainly would. It’s just a question of time and money.

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